The Sonnet Game


In February I published my third book of poetry. The book is entitled “The snipe in winter,” named for one of the poems in the book. Most of the poems are sonnets of one form or another – well, mostly just one form. Sonnets are fun to write. Writing a sonnet is a bit like doing a crossword puzzle, working out the rhyme scheme and the number of syllables per line etc. and it adds to the interest of the poem – at least for the writer – if you have to keep all the plates spinning at the same time.
I am fortunate enough to have several close friends and family members who are interested in poetry and for years we have been playing the Sonnet Game. This is a game we invented years ago to while away the evenings once we had finished solving the oil crisis or plotting to overthrow the government. The purpose of the game is to write several sonnets together and here’s how it works:
First of all, you decide together what rhyme scheme will be used for the game, say a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. Each player starts off with a blank sheet of paper and writes down the first line of a sonnet in iambic pentameter. Each player then passes the sheet clockwise. Now each player has a sheet with the first line on it (written by the previous person). They now write the second line of the poem in front of them, again in iambic pentameter and always keeping to the rhyme scheme that has been agreed, and pass the sheet clockwise again. The sheets are passed round until fourteen lines of each sonnet have been completed. Each player gives a title to the poem in front of him or her and you each take turns at reading out the resulting sonnets.
Usually the results are hilarious. You end up with immortal lines like:

“I think upon the face of Ezra Pound
Those coarse, congested thoroughfares of love
That stout resist the facelift from above
Etc.”

Or unforgettable (unfortunately) passages like this:

“The woods beyond the trees beyond my dreams
Are cool and green and dark and filled with sounds
Of flatulating sheep on distant mounds
To prove that love is never what it seems”

Well they seemed hilarious at the time (the time being somewhere round about one A.M. after making prodigious inroads into the contents of a bottle of Laphroaig or Dalwhinnie malt whisky).
We haven’t played the game in a while. We really should bring it back into fashion – that and the malt whisky. It’s a brilliant combination.

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